Eagle Mountain And Rum Ridge

Inspired by news that other hikers had recently traversed some ridges in the Ya Ha Tinda region about 65 kilometres west of Sundre, Alberta, Zosia Zgolak and I paid a visit to the area on 3 June 2017.  We started our day by ascending Eagle Mountain using Vern Dewit's trip report for guidance.  Starting from the Eagle Lake trailhead, we followed the wide horse trail over a low rise before rock-hopping across Eagle Creek.  At a big grassy meadow just beyond the creek crossing, we left the trail and made a beeline for the west ridge of Eagle Mountain.  With little undergrowth in the forest at the base of the ridge, we had no trouble climbing up above tree line and then following the undulating ridge all the way to the summit.  Along the way, we encountered numerous short drop-offs which were generally easy to descend, but there is at least one gendarme which forced us to backtrack a bit to find a suitable detour.
Bring your own toilet paper for the outhouse! Zosia starts hiking from the Eagle Lake trailhead.
I think this is a pretty popular trail for both anglers and horse riders. The trail to Eagle Lake begins to drop down here to cross Eagle Creek (not visible).  Directly ahead is the west ridge of Eagle Mountain.
We don't even get to see Eagle Lake on this day! Zosia leaves the trail in an open meadow and heads for the west ridge of Eagle Mountain.
Look at them sexy calves! The initial climb up the west ridge of Eagle Mountain is steep but relatively bush-free.
This was a great spot for a mid-morning nap! Zosia enjoys a drink while surveying the Ya Ha Tinda region.
Also known as Rum Ridge Peak or Poplar Peak...someone really needs to officially name these bloody peaks and ridges! Rum Ridge is visible to the north.
A bit annoying with all the ups and downs, but it's not as bad as it seems. Zosia pauses on one of several bumps along Eagle Mountain's west ridge.  The summit is not visible here.
Some drop-offs coming up... The summit of Eagle Mountain is finally within sight.
Long legs help here! Zosia prepares to descend an awkward cliff band.
Too bad we didn't come back this way 'cause I would have liked to give this a shot. Zosia tries to climb the Class 5 drop-off she just circumvented.
Okay, these drop-offs are starting to get a little annoying... Sonny descends yet another drop-off along the ridge.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Some of the rocks are a bit loose... Zosia carefully checks her holds as she down-climbs the drop-off.

And the background is not too shabby either!

Here is a good view of the numerous short cliff bands guarding Eagle Mountain's west ridge.


Back to more slogging... The remainder of the ascent up the west ridge is straightforward.
Cool-looking clouds!

Zosia takes the last few steps before the summit of Eagle Mountain.

Lotsa bugs here for some strange reason! Sonny and Zosia stand on the summit of Eagle Mountain (2501 metres).
Lotsa familiar peaks on the horizon as well. Maze Peak is just right of centre beyond the south ridge of Eagle Mountain.
Some long approaches for those peaks! Barrier Mountain (left) and Warden Rock (right) are the most recognizable peaks to the west.
Although Zosia and I originally intended to climb only Eagle Mountain, the great weather had us thinking about extending our hike even before we reached the summit.  On a previous separate trip, Dewit and others had ascended Rum Ridge after traversing a connecting ridge from Evangeline Peak to the north.  Zosia and I opted to ascend Rum Ridge as well, but of course, we would approach via the connecting ridge from Eagle Mountain to the south.  Despite numerous bumps along the connecting ridge, this turned out to be a long but fairly easy plod, and we encountered no serious difficulties in reaching the double summits of Rum Ridge.  The ridge immediately west of the double summits is probably the most challenging terrain on the entire loop and is comprised of an airy ridge crest with a couple of inconvenient pinnacles thrown into the mix.  We initially proceeded along a rubbly ledge a few metres below the ridge crest to avoid the most airy sections, but eventually, we were forced to tackle the ridge more directly.  Despite Zosia's aversion to exposure, she handled the scrambling here expertly, and we were soon back on easier terrain without having any mishaps.

The remainder of our hike down the grassy, southwest end of Rum Ridge was not technically challenging, but it was not exactly a cake walk either.  More than once, we were steered off course by some confusing horse trails, and at times, it felt like we would never get down to the valley bottom.  Zosia and I were also both running low on water at this point.  Thankfully, the temperature was not too hot, and between Zosia scooping up some snow higher up and me taking smaller sips, we effectively rationed the water we had left.  When we finally reached the valley bottom, we found a good horse trail and followed it back to its junction with Eagle Lake trail and subsequently the trailhead.

After re-hydrating and refreshing ourselves at the trailhead, we drove to Bighorn campground near the entrance to Ya Ha Tinda Ranch to have dinner and camp for the night.

It was too nice of a day to pass up on this long traverse.

Zosia leaves the summit of Eagle Mountain to follow a succession of bumps connecting to Rum Ridge (left).


Take it one bump at a time! Most of the traverse to Rum Ridge is nothing more than off-trail hiking.
This could easily be considered a separate summit... Zosia approaches the highest bump along the connecting ridge between Eagle Mountain and Rum Ridge.
Look how far we've come, baby! This is looking back at Eagle Mountain from partway along the traverse.
Being so close to Rum Ridge, we should call this high point Coke Peak! Zosia and Sonny stand beside a cairn on the highest bump along the connecting ridge between Eagle Mountain and Rum Ridge (2479 metres).
Well, I guess we're committed to continue at this point! Zosia resumes her march toward Rum Ridge.
It's best to stick close to the ridge crest. Zosia approaches the summit block of Rum Ridge.
The best is yet to come! Hehe! This part of Rum Ridge is mostly easy scrambling.
Call it Junction Peak?? The unnamed bump behind Zosia is the junction between separate connecting ridges to Eagle Mountain and Evangeline Peak.
As usual, the summit you're NOT standing on always looks higher! After hiking over the east summit of Rum Ridge, Zosia heads for the west summit.  Both summits are of equal height (2527 metres).
Surprisingly still supportive! Zosia climbs up a lingering snow patch before the west summit.
We didn't even stop to take a summit photo! From the west summit, Zosia has to choose between hiking on the exposed crest or dropping down to the loose ledge on the left.
If I were to do this again, I'd pick the airy crest. The ledge is less exposed, but the overlying rubble is loose.
I really enjoyed the mildly exposed scrambling here--best part of the trip in my opinion. Zosia is eventually forced to return to the ridge crest to complete the traverse.
Evangeline is loftier, but Rum is so much more fun! Evangeline Peak sits to the north.
Watch out for whistling marmots here! Zosia descends a very steep grassy slope on the way down from Rum Ridge.
Don't worry. I've done this before! The bushwhacking is generally light in the area, but this tree is a bit awkward to climb over.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Beautiful evening. Zosia pauses just short of a grove of aspen trees near the valley bottom.  At centre is Labyrinth Mountain.
I think this is also known as "Poplar Ridge"... This is looking back at the grassy slopes near the southwest end of Rum Ridge.
Watch your step around here--lotsa goose and horse poop! Sonny digs into a well-deserved dinner at Bighorn campground.  Behind him is Red Deer River, and on the horizon are Eagle Mountain (far left) and Maze Peak (centre).

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Bring extra water for this one! Total Distance:  18.9 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  11 hours 35 minutes
Total Elevation Gain:  1735 metres

GPX Data